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Separating pitch chroma and pitch height in the human brain

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Jason Warren, Professor Tim GriffithsORCiD


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Musicians recognize pitch as having two dimensions. On the keyboard, these are illustrated by the octave and the cycle of notes within the octave. In perception, these dimensions are referred to as pitch height and pitch chroma, respectively. Pitch chroma provides a basis for presenting acoustic patterns (melodies) that do not depend on the particular sound source. In contrast, pitch height provides a basis for segregation of notes into streams to separate sound sources. This paper reports a functional magnetic resonance experiment designed to search for distinct mappings of these two types of pitch change in the human brain. The results show that chroma change is specifically represented anterior to primary auditory cortex, whereas height change is specifically represented posterior to primary auditory cortex. We propose that tracking of acoustic information streams occurs in anterior auditory areas, whereas the segregation of sound objects (a crucial aspect of auditory scene analysis) depends on posterior areas.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Warren JD, Uppenkamp S, Patterson RD, Griffiths TD

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Year: 2003

Volume: 100

Issue: 17

Pages: 10038-10042

ISSN (print): 0027-8424

ISSN (electronic): 1091-6490

Publisher: National Academy of Sciences


DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1730682100

PubMed id: 12909719


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